Boris Johnson takes to This Morning sofa to cool stockpiling frenzy

Boris Johnson takes to This Morning sofa to cool stockpiling frenzy: PM ‘guarantees’ UK won’t run out of food amid coronavirus crisis as he tries to reassure Brits he is on top of crisis – but Phillip Schofield demands ‘when do I tell my mum to stay home?’

  • Number of UK coronavirus cases has risen to 90 amid fears spread to accelerate
  • Boris Johnson has taken to ITV This Morning sofa in a bid to reassure the public 
  • The PM insisted Britain will not run out of food and urged ‘business as usual’ 
  • Chief Medical Office Professor Chris Whitty has been giving evidence to MPs 
  • Warned that numbers of coronavirus infections in the UK are set to keep rising
  • Government’s focus is now on delaying rather than containing the spread 

Boris Johnson tried to cool a stockpiling frenzy today as he insisted Britain will not run out of food during a coronavirus outbreak.

The PM said he had faith in the ability of the public to see the ‘balance of risk’ with the disease, and he hoped they would carry on with ‘business as usual’.

Taking to the ITV This Morning sofa to reassure the country as the number of UK cases hit 90, Mr Johnson was asked if he could guarantee Britons will still be able to get food, and replied: ‘Yes.’ 

Mr Johnson stressed that the government was being guided by scientists on what is needed to limit the impact of a major outbreak. 

After the Chief Medical Officer said UK cases will keep rising and infections are now taking place between Britons, Mr Johnson said a ‘range of options’ were being considered for how to respond.

He made clear that ‘draconian’ coronavirus measures such as closing schools and cancelling sports events are on the table – but they are not needed yet.  

But presenter Phillip Schofield pressed Mr Johnson to make sure the government gave full information, saying: ‘I need to know, at what point do I tell my mum actually, it might be a good idea to stay in now?’ 

Mr Johnson insisted: ‘We are putting it out as fast as we can… We want to overcommunicate with the public about what is happening.’  

On ITV’s This Morning. Boris Johnson insisted he will be guided by scientists – saying there will be a ‘balance’ between ‘draconian’ measures to limit the spread and keeping society functioning

Presenter Phillip Schofield pressed Mr Johnson to make sure the government gave full information, saying he needed to know when to tell his mother to stay at home

The number of UK coronavirus cases has hit 90 with fears the rate cold accelerate

A woman who works at the Cumberland Infirmary, in Carlisle, is one of at least four NHS workers to have caught the coronavirus already. She caught the illness in Italy and travelled home through Germany 

Mr Johnson shook hands with both Phil and Holly – and insisted there was no problem with the traditional greeting if everyone was washing properly

The PM’s appearance on This Morning comes as the government tries to convince the public that it has a grip on the situation, and hammer home its message on the importance of hygiene to all sections of society, 

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty also repeated that there is no need for stockpile of food or medicine.

‘There is no need at this stage to be stocking up on anything,’ he told MPs.

‘This is going to be a long period, there is going to be a lead time before the actual serious take-off of this comes, which we will be able to indicate, and obviously we are working with all the supply chains – in the case of our own department, looking specifically at health products.

‘So, there is nothing in the current environment that would rationally lead someone to want to go out and stock up on stuff.’

Boris Johnson dismisses fears about shaking hands 

Boris Johnson today dismissed fears about shaking hands amid the coronavirus crisis.  

The PM shook hands with both Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield when he went to the ITV This Morning studios. 

He told the duo it was not a problem as long as everyone kept washing their hands. 

Mr Johnson said: ‘People make their own decisions, but washing them is the single most effective thing rather than barring all (contact).’ 

Other politicians – including London Mayor Sadiq Khan – have insisted they are avoiding shaking hands amid the coronavirus crisis. 

Earlier this week German Chancellor Angela Merkel was shunned by her interior minister Horst Seehofer when she went to shake his hand and he refused. 

She had previously refused to shake hands of guests at an event in her home city over fears about the virus.

In France, health minister Olivier Veran has urged citizens to stop ‘la bise’, the French practice of kissing people on both cheeks to say hello or goodbye.

#StopShakingHands has been trending on Twitter, with Britons encouraging one another to mime the greeting, do an ‘elbow bump’ or even tap feet instead. 

Speaking to Schofield and co-presenter Holly Willoughby, Mr Johnson again stressed the importance of washing hands frequently.

He said he was not worried about shaking hands with people as long as he kept up the hygiene routine – after Schofield revealed they had the traditional greeting when the PM arrived. 

Mr Johnson said: ‘People make their own decisions, but washing them is the single most effective thig rather than barring all (contact).’ 

Other politicians – including London Mayor Sadiq Khan – have insisted they are avoiding shaking hands amid the coronavirus crisis. 

Earlier this week German Chancellor Angela Merkel was shunned by her interior minister Horst Seehofer when she went to shake his hand and he refused. 

She had previously refused to shake hands of guests at an event in her home city over fears about the virus.

In France, health minister Olivier Veran has urged citizens to stop ‘la bise’, the French practice of kissing people on both cheeks to say hello or goodbye.

Mr Johnson said the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) was considering a range of options to delay the spread of the disease.

‘At the moment what they are telling me is, actually, slightly counter-intuitively, things like closing schools and stopping big gatherings don’t work as well perhaps as people think in stopping the spread,’ he said.

‘One of the theories is perhaps you could take it in on the chin, take it all in one go and allow the disease to move through the population without really taking as many draconian measures. I think we need to strike a balance.

‘I think it would be better if we take all the measures that we can now just to stop the peak of the disease being as difficult for the NHS as it might. I think there are things we may be able to do.’

Earlier, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty warned that he expected half of all cases in the UK to happen within a period of just three weeks – meaning in a bad scenario the health service could be ‘way’ over bed capacity.

The grim picture was laid out as Prof Whitty said the government has now essentially moved to the ‘delay’ phase of its response – with efforts to contain new cases having failed.   

Giving evidence to MPs, Prof Whitty said: ‘This could be anywhere from a rather bad winter for the NHS, but in spring or summer through to huge numbers way overtopping the ability of the NHS to put everyone in beds, and that obviously would have big pressures on the service.’ 

Prof Whitty also backtracked on suggestions that the authorities could stop providing geographical information about new cases in the UK. After complaints about a lack of transparency, he said such details would still be released and blamed a ‘communications fumble’.  

Locations on new coronavirus cases ‘WILL be released’ 

The government will keep releasing information about the location of new coronavirus cases, the Chief Medical Officer said today. 

Prof Chris Whitty was pressed on suggestions the government will not provide daily geographical information after a sharp rise in cases.

But he blamed a ‘communications fumble’, saying in fact the government will give details – although there might be a ‘short delay’ to get the facts correct if there are a large number of cases.

‘We are intending to provide geographical information. In fact in the medium term we will provide much more information with maps and a dashboard,’ he said. 

‘What we are intending to do is have some kind of delay to make sure we have got the details right…

‘What we don’t want to do is give people incorrect information.’   

Officials had been accused of ‘secrecy’ after the new arrangements were mooted, with claims the public should be given as much information as possible so they could protect themselves.

Authorities in Singapore reveal the exact street where each case is diagnosed.

At least four NHS staff have caught the illness, which has now infected 90 people in the UK, along with two other people in hospitals and a medical student in London.

Three new cases were confirmed this morning by the Scottish Government, in people from Forth Valley, Greater Glasgow & Clyde, and Grampian, bringing the country’s total to six. 

Healthcare workers are at particular risk of contracting and spreading the virus because they come into close contact with sick perople and meet a lot of different patients, visitors and colleagues.

King’s College Hospital, in London, yesterday put parts of its buildings in lockdown after two coronavirus cases were discovered there, and another was diagnosed at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.

One of the first people in the UK to be diagnosed with the virus was a GP working in Brighton, and another hospital doctor in nearby Worthing contracted the illness. 

NHS workers in Carlisle and Maidstone and a patient and a student at King’s College Hospital have also all been diagnosed.

Giving evidence to the Health Select Committee, Prof Whitty said: ‘I’m expecting the number only to go up. 

‘There are now several – not large numbers – but several cases where we cannot see where this has come from in terms of a clear transmission, either because someone has come directly from overseas or because they’ve had a close contact with someone who has recently returned from overseas.

‘That I think makes it highly likely therefore that there is some level of community transmission of this virus in the UK now.’ 

He added: ‘It is here at very low levels at this point in time, but that should be the working assumption on which we go forward. 

Asked by chairman Jeremy Hunt whether the government had shifted its focus fro ‘contain’ to ‘delay’, Prof Whitty said: We are now basically mainly delay.’ 

An nurse during a demonstration of the Coronavirus pod in Northern Ireland yesterday

A patient at King’s College Hospital, London, has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, along with a virology student who was studying there

A queue of people was pictured outside Boots in Wimbledon this morning reportedly waiting to buy hand sanitiser 

Giving evidence to the Health Select Committee, Prof Chris Whitty said: ‘I’m expecting the number only to go up.’

Prof Whitty was pressed on suggestions the government will not provide daily updates on the location of new infections. 

But he blamed a ‘communications fumble’, saying in fact the government will give details – although there might be a ‘short delay’ to get the facts correct if there are a large number of cases.

‘We are intending to provide geographical information. In fact in the medium term we will provide much more information with maps and a dashboard,’ he said. 

‘What we are intending to do is have some kind of delay to make sure wqe have got the details right…

‘What we don’t want to do is give people incorrect information.’   

In other key developments today:

  • ITV revealed travel companies are deferring their TV advertising because of the disease, with advertising revenue due to drop 10 per cent in April.
  • Europe’s largest regional airline Flybe has collapsed into administration, with sources saying coronavirus ‘made a difficult situation worse’.
  • The Grand Princess cruise ship, with around 2,500 passengers and 1,000 crew, is being held off the coast of California after a former passenger died from Covid-19.
  • Kings College Hospital in south London, confirmed two recent patients had tested positive for Covid-19, with some staff told to self-isolate. 
  • The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which is chaired by the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, is meeting later to discuss the situation. 

Prof Whitty told MPs it had initially been hoped that the virus could have been contained mainly within China with a few outbreaks elsewhere and once the authorities got on top of it the Covid-19 would go away.

But, he said: ‘That is becoming an extraordinarily unlikely long-term outcome.

‘We are not completely there and it is important to acknowledge that for ‘contain’ we need to have an international view about what we do about this.

‘This is something which we should, in a sense, take the views of other nations as well as our own.

‘But I think we need to be realistic about the fact that with so many different outbreaks, containing looks pretty optimistic.’

He said the delay phase was aimed at pushing back the peak of the epidemic.

That could move the peak of cases away from the ‘winter pressures on the NHS in all four nations of the UK’.

ITV warns adverts are being pulled over coronavirus fears 

ITV has warned that its advertising revenues are being hit by the outbreak of coronavirus as travel companies pull their ads from TV.

The broadcaster said it has already felt the pinch in March, and is expecting a 10% drop in ad revenue in April.

It comes as the company reported a 1.5% drop in full-year advertising revenue in 2019, although that is better than the 2% fall it had previously forecast.

Pre-tax profit fell by 7% to £530 million, on revenue of £3.9 billion, up 3%.

ITV said it is too early to tell how big the overall impact of coronavirus will be.

It still expects ad revenue to grow by 2% in the first three months of the year; however this does not include April.

The disease has spread around the world since it was first discovered in China late last year. Almost 100,000 people are now thought to have been infected, with several thousand deaths reported.

It would also allow more time for research into the nature of the Covid-19 virus and, thirdly, there was a possibility that – as with flu and colds – there could be a seasonal element which meant the rate of transmission went down.

Prof Whitty said there would not be a ‘step move’ from the contain phase to the delay phase but ‘we are putting greater and greater priority on the elements of this which are delay’.

‘For the early stages of delay, contain and delay are very similar, not quite the same. They are largely around finding early cases, isolating them, following their chains of transmission, where necessary isolating those people,’ he said.

But as time goes by there would be measures that involved ‘changes to society’, he said.

Prof Whitty said deaths from Covid-19 could be a ‘very small number’ as a proportion but a ‘large absolute number’ depending on how many are infected.

The impact on the health service would be most sharply felt over a period of around three weeks to nine weeks at the height of the epidemic.

‘For those people who get the disease severe enough to need hospital but not severe enough, fortunately, to kill them, they will still need NHS and health care.

‘One of the things which is clear, if you model out the epidemic, is you will get 50% of all the cases over a three-week period and 95% of the cases over a nine-week period, if it follows the trajectory we think it’s likely to.

‘If all of those were spaced out on the NHS over two or three years, that would be easily manageable, but it’s the fact they are so heavily concentrated.’

The period at the height of the epidemic would mean the NHS has ‘huge pressure on it for a relatively short period of time’.

Access to critical care beds could be under the most pressure in the NHS as a result of the virus, Prof Whitty said.

‘The bit of the system which will come under pressure first will be those conditions that require people to have oxygen and particularly to have critical care beds, and that bit, I think, will come under pressure at quite an early stage if we have a high-end-of-the-range epidemic for this,’ he said.

Prof Whitty said he believed infections among NHS workers would be ‘similar to other areas’ – because staff would be told to curb their usual habits of working through illness.

‘NHS staff are remarkably determined to come and serve their professions,’ he said.  

‘They may come in with quite significant feelings of unwellness..  We would definitely not wish them to do that in this situation.’

He said: ‘The difference between presenteeism in the NHS, which is remarkable, and some areas of work would go away – and we would want it to go away.’ 

 

 

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